Maximizing Holiday Party Plastic Recycling: Tips and Guidelines

What do we do with those empty tubs, jugs and jars? Recycle them, of course!
Family toasting on Christmas dinner

Whether we prep or purchase our food and drink for holiday parties, we all typically wind up with the same leftovers: packaging.

Simple Tips for Recycling Your Holiday Party Plastics

Here’s a quick set of tips to help you recycle more of your party plastics.

*Ultimate Tip: All recycling is local. Check online with your local recycling agency.


Group eating nachos and drinking cocktails.

Cheesy, creamy, or spicy, we’re likely scooping up dips out of plastic tubs. Most curbside recycling programs today accept these tubs for recycling. Simply clean out any remaining food, replace the lids and toss them in your recycling bin.


Family drinking egg nogg by Christmas tree.

If we don’t make our own, our eggnog likely comes in a lightweight plastic jug. Most curbside programs accept these jugs. Rinse them out, replace the caps and toss ‘em in your bin. (Just like we do with our empty milk jugs.)

Juice Bottles and Jugs:

Plastic juice bottles.

If we’re not squeezing it ourselves, juices often are packaged in small-to-tall plastic jugs. Like eggnog jugs, they’re typically accepted in your curbside bin. Rinse, replace caps, toss.

Plastic Containers for Nuts:

Group Consuming Beer and Snacks

Skinny, squat or gigantic containers from warehouse stores – are usually accepted for recycling. Replace lids and toss them in the bin.

Bonus recycling tip: Many prepared-food plastic containers with tight fitting lids are reusable for storage or leftovers… and great for sending home with party goers, who can clean/reuse/recycle them.

Soft Drink Bottles:

Woman holding soda bottles.

Most soft drink beverages today come in lightweight plastic bottles that are widely accepted in curbside recycling bins. Empty, replace caps and toss. (Do the same thing with the “hard” stuff sold in plastic bottles.)


Boy squeezing mustard on hot dog.

Ketchup, mayo, mustard, sour cream and beyond… if they come in plastic containers or squeeze bottles, they likely can be recycled curbside. Rinse, twist on the caps and toss.

Bread (and other food that comes in clear, flexible bags):

Woman buying bread in supermarket.

Most bread is sold in lightweight, plastic bags. They typically do NOT belong in your curbside recycling bin. Instead: “Shake and Take.” Shake out the crumbs and take the bags to a participating retail store that collects plastic bags and wraps for recycling. More info here.

Pre-made/mixed snacks:

Nuts dried fruits in plastic containers.

From pretzel mixes to candied fruits, many supermarkets sell ready to eat snacks in rigid plastic containers. Most communities accept these for recycling but be sure to check with your local recycler. For snacks sold in bags, see “Chip and Snack bags” below.

Oh, BTW: That big plastic container of cheese puffs? Recycle it.

Pre-made hors d’oeuvres:

Person passing appetizer tray

Many hot or cold appetizers – petit fours, pigs in a blanket, mini quiche, shrimp cocktail, etc. – are packaged in various size plastic trays. Recycling these trays is a toss-up – some may be recyclable where you live, some may not. Be sure to check with your local recycler.


People with plastic cups at party

This one’s a recycling toss-up. Some recycling programs accept plastic drinking cups… and some don’t. Check with your local recycler to see what is accepted in your area.

Tip: Place a clearly labeled container for recyclables by the drink area to make it easy for your guests to pitch in.

Chip and Snack Bags:

Generic Potato Chip Bags

Nope. Not typically accepted for curbside recycling. But plastic recycling folks are working on it.

If you’re unsure if an item is recyclable…“When in doubt, leave it out” (of your recycling bin).


Cheers to a joyous holiday and healthy planet!